ONBOARD THE QUEEN MARY 2 -- Steven Melnikoff turned 103 in late November. A week before his birthday, he was onboard Cunard's Queen Mary 2.
Melnikoff was one of 20 U.S. veterans who participated in Cunard's latest program in conjunction with the Greatest Generations Foundation, which works to preserve the stories of veterans. Since 2017, the partnership has yielded five theme cruises timed for Memorial Day or Veterans Day that offer moderated panels that emotionally recount the experiences of those who served in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Titled "Eyewitness to History: Stories of Service and Remembrance," this six-day series invited passengers to gather in the theater and bear witness to harrowing oral accounts of conflict. Melnikoff, for example, served in the 1st Battalion, 175th Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division, and aboard the QM2 he shared his story of the Omaha Beach invasion of Normandy, his first day in combat. Melnikoff ultimately survived 336 days of WWII combat, earning three Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.
Another speaker was Edith Meeks, who joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1968, inspired by her enlisted brother, and was deployed to Vietnam.
"Every one of those guys was my brother," Meeks told the audience of her patients.